Happy Upfronting

On your mark. Get set. Go upfronting.

With seven weeks to go before media agencies and TV sellers warm up the microwaves for all that late night upfront buying and selling activity, it's probably a good idea to reminisce over the good times - of 2004.

All those nice revenue gains that network TV, cable TV, local TV, and syndicated TV made last year -- mostly from that regular bi-annual advertising jump from being a Presidential political year and a Summer Olympics year - will be humbled in 2005 like a banished and dejected reality show contestant.

At least that's what the seers of the TV upfront advertising world are envisioning - what with companies like General Motors, Procter & Gamble, and others hinting at retrenchment in their media spending.



Still, any clear crystal balls here are more like kaleidoscopes these days- needing scores of major mathematics formulas to predict upfront revenues. CBS might well employ that math professor on its "Numb3rs" show for starters. Already first and second quarter scatter business has been limping along - though some buyers in cable will tell you otherwise. The second quarter is always a relatively accurate harbinger of what is to come.

If media agency buyers are correctly observing that scatter pricing is down 5 percent versus upfront pricing, the odds are the 2005-2006 upfront selling seasons will be soft, culminating in one of those long drawn-out affairs where no one will get a summer vacation until Labor Day.

Still, it's good to see that local broadcast improved last year into the double digit growth-land of 12 percent to just over $18 billion -- beating some industry estimates. Syndication TV must have surprised analysts as well, grabbing a 16 percent gain for the entire year to $3.9 billion. Network TV didn't do as well, but a still solid 9.5 percent rise to $24.9 billion.

Celebrate now TV sellers, because any buzz you hear won't be media agencies looking for an early deal. That noise is coming from your stomach as it churns looking for answers to the question: How can I get to those lofty, high, single-digit CPM price increases?

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